Suzi Perry: “You can be saying hello and welcome and the whole show changes in your ear”

“I’ve loved motorsport since I was a child,” says Suzi Perry, reminiscing on how her passion first evolved. “It was always on at the weekends at home and I loved it. The passion for getting involved came in my early twenties when I took my bike license and my friends at the time were all bikers.”

Suzi Perry is a household name as far as presenting motorsports go. Her impeccable knowledge and love for all things two and four wheeled has enabled her to work in the MotoGP and Formula 1 paddocks for well over a decade.

“We used to go to British Superbike races and we used to watch it obsessively on TV,” she says. “It became ‘why don’t we do this’ and ‘why don’t we do that ‘and my friends would say ‘why don’t you go on television and do it yourself!’.”

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Photograph credit: SuziPerry.com

And that is how it happened. Having discovered this immense love, Suzi acted on it and made a phone call of a lifetime. “I called Sky, who at the time had the rights to the World Superbike Championship,” she says. “I called them for a chat, ended up going in and walked out with a reporter’s job in 1997. It was an extraordinary start to a career!”

Like anyone who has landed their dream job, Suzi remembers the immense feeling of joy and excitement.

“I remember walking out of the Sky offices in Middlesex and I just couldn’t wait to get on the phone and ring my parents,” she says. “I was beside myself with ecstasy. I just couldn’t believe that they’d offered me a job and that I would be working with bikes and on television. It was like someone had just told me that I’d won the lottery, but it was better than that. It’s gone on for 22 plus years.”

Since then, Suzi’s career has gone from strength to strength and even meant her hosting the most popular motorsport in the world for BBC 1.

“The moment I got a call asking me to do F1 was another defining moment,” she says. “It’s an enduring love that will never go away. It’s hard work, bloody hard work, but I love it. A lot of energy and work goes into a broadcast, despite talking about something you love.”

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Suzi with Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, her two co-presenters for BBC F1. Photo credit: BBC

Although Suzi has worked in motorsport for over 22 years, the rush of excitement never disappears and that is the “beauty of live sport”, according to the presenter .

“It’s a combination of, I wouldn’t say nerves because I’ve done it for a long time, but there’s certainly excitement before and few deep breaths before the ‘hello and welcome’,” she says. “It’s great to have that buzz. I never turn up thinking ‘oh gosh, here we go again’. It’s always my life.”

One of the highlights for Suzi now is presenting with friends, which is a dream scenario for most people

“I’m at a stage where I’m working with my friends, the guys that I interviewed twenty years ago,” she says. “It’s heaven, it really is. No one has an agenda. I can honestly say that I’m in a team that pulls together, instead of one that pulls apart.”

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Photograph credit: Peter Fox

But, of course, there is always the tricky moments live on air. As Suzi explains, live broadcasts rarely run as planned despite rehearsal.

“You can be saying hello and welcome and the whole show changes in your ear,” she says. “Sometimes you haven’t even got to the end of your sentence and something has happened. That’s the beauty of live sport.”

Suzi compares her job to news broadcasting, because of its ever changing nature: “There’s nothing like doing live sport, except, now this might sound strange, but news broadcasting. You have to be instinctive and have your wits completely about you and be a hundred percent. You try to be completely switched on all of the time when you’re broadcasting because anything can happen.”

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Photograph credit: Mike Lawn

One of the most spectacular MotoGP races to date was in Argentina which took place in April. Although Suzi wasn’t there that weekend, she watched it unfold on television. Races this that are the ones where you bring all of your previous knowledge together to make a seamless broadcast for the viewers at home.

“It was something you don’t see very often, so you have to pull on all of your knowledge and wisdom,” she says. “As a presenter it’s not your job to give opinion, it’s your job to ask the right questions to your experts who are standing next to you. In some ways, it doesn’t matter what you feel, you just have to contain the passion in those situations and ask the right questions. That can be tricky sometimes, but when you’re surrounded by the right people, it’s good. It’s a wonderful job and I love it, but there are times when it’s quite difficult. “

Charlotte Phelps: Behind the scenes with an F1 engineer

Deciding what career path to take can be tricky, especially when there are so many roles out there to choose from. At Females in Motorsport, we’ve decided to showcase as many different careers as possible, to help you decide where you want to go in the future.

For this feature, we spoke to Charlotte Phelps, a graduate Electronic Engineer with Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. Charlotte is the first female ever employed by Mercedes HPP in her department, but that doesn’t stop her from thriving!

Can you describe your role?

Charlotte: I’m a graduate Electronic Engineer with Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, working on the design, manufacture and test of the Mercedes F1 Hybrid System. As part of their graduate programme I will rotate through the various departments in the company, getting to experience every aspect of the engineering product chain – from design through to testing, as well as working with colleagues to solve any problems encountered trackside. This rotation enables me to find the place in the company most suited to my skill set, as well as where I most enjoy working. This gives me the chance to experience areas of engineering that I may not have had chance to experience as part of my university degree, but may excel at and enjoy.

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Charlotte at a BWRDC event

What was the path you took to get you where you are?

Initially, I never wanted to be an engineer. Coming from a family of engineers, I decided that I didn’t want to be like my parents and wanted to do something different. I hated maths at the age of 14, and vowed that I would never carry it on past GCSE. But with encouragement from both my mother and my teachers at school, I learned to love it, and found that actually it was a strength of mine. At A level I did Maths, Further Maths and Physics, leading me to conclude that engineering was probably the only realistic path.  This led me to York University, the only university in the country to offer and Electronic Engineering degree with Music Technology.

Once there I discovered an interest in the application of musical theories to other industries, resulting in me carrying out an industrial placement year here at Mercedes AMG HPP, in the hope of one day applying that interest to my other passion, motorsport. As a Speed Racer myself and, having helped to both build and prepare previous race cars with my father and brother, this seemed like an ideal solution. Once I completed my year in industry I was lucky enough to be offered a place on their graduate program upon my graduation.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time? Is this your dream job?

I am still very early in my career, with much to learn and experience. In 10 years, I would hope to still be working in motorsport, and as an engineer, but in what capacity I could not say. I’ve only really been in the real world for 6 months, and that seems far too soon to tie myself down to something specific, in a vast industry with so much to offer, much of which has not even been thought of yet!

Have you always had a passion for motorsport? Where did your love for it come from?

I have always had an interest in cars and motorsport, growing up with a father and brother like mine. When I was nine years old, the first kit car chassis appeared in the garage, ready to be built into a full car. When I was around 14, my brother and father began competing in speed events. At that age I was an avid dancer, attending theatre school every Saturday, but would still go to events with them whenever I could. When I was 17, I joined them on the race track, starting in a Fiat 500, and winning my first championship at the age of 18.

At 19 I stepped up to a Aries Locost, winning two more consecutive championships, before proceeding to a bike engined Westfield Megabusa for the 2016 season. This Westfield is the car that I continue to compete in, having just had a new, more powerful engine for the 2018 season! Maintaining and preparing these cars is a family affair, and motorsport is very much the main focus of my life.

In 2016 I became a member of the British Women Racing Drivers Club (BWRDC), and in 2017 joined their committee. This club aims to promote and encourage all women currently involved in motorsport, as well as provide role models for women and girls looking to enter the sport. This has fuelled my passion for motorsport even more, as a way of empowering young people and providing a place for them to share their passions with like-minded souls.

How many girls are in your department, what about on your uni course?

I was the first woman to be employed in the Electronic Engineering team at Mercedes AMG HPP, and the only female graduate from this year’s intake and in total less than 10% of the workforce is female.  

My university course was a little unique when it comes to women in engineering, as the music technology side of the course perhaps provided a little more appeal to the girls. There were, I think, around 30 girls who started with me, out of a cohort of around 200, and about half of those were on the Music Technology stream. This is still a depressingly small number of female students in a relatively large cohort, around 15%.

Is that number increasing?

When I discuss these numbers with my mother, who is an electronic engineer herself, we realise that actually these figures have changed very little in the last 30 years. However, there is much more being done in recent years to try and encourage girls and young women into this industry. For example the growth of the STEM ambassadors group, as well as the creation of Dare to be Different and the development of science fairs and shows such as ‘The Big Bang Fair’. Hopefully in the years to come we will see girls more confident to enter the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, without the constraint of societal norms.

Do your female colleagues know of organisations and groups they can join such as those you are a part of?

I think most women are aware of the professional institutions, such as the IET and the IMechE, with most engineers being a member of the appropriate institution. But there are other organisations, such as Women’s Engineering Society and STEM Ambassadors that some people may not be aware of. These societies work to both support the female engineers in industry, and encourage and inspire the next generation of engineers.
How has being a part of these groups helped you?

I do feel these organisations could be doing more to support women in a male dominated industry, and help them to maintain their self-confidence in an environment which is often tough and disparaging for women in its current state. The Women’s Engineering Society aims to help in this, but if the environment is to change, the men need to change more than the women do!

STEM ambassadors aim to go into schools and promote science and engineering to young children, but I think more needs to be done by society in general to remove the attitude that female engineers are special or different, and should instead promote the idea of anyone carrying out whatever occupation they wish.

I think groups, such as the BWRDC, are doing a lot to change people’s perception of women in motorsport, by showing that we’re not special or different; we are simply doing what we enjoy the same as any man would, and competing on an equal footing both in work and in racing.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say don’t worry so much about what people think of you. If you are doing what makes you happy, then you will find friends who share your passions and who you can enjoy those passions with. People who do not allow you to be happy doing what you love, are not worth your time.

 

Flick Haigh: “When you put the helmet on there is no difference between men and women”

Flick Haigh made headlines recently when she became the first woman to win an outright British GT race. Her success in the first round at Oulton Park proved significant for the 31-year-old who started racing by sheer chance 11 years earlier. The rising star has a degree in International Equine and Agricultural Business Management but one thing is clear: her heart lies with competing and, more importantly, racing.

We caught up with her fresh from her amazing win to see what she had to say. One thing was for certain – Flick was still in shock!

“I’m just amazed,” says Flick. “It wasn’t expected. I was very proud of the team. I’ve worked with Optimum Motorsport for four years now and the last two years with the Audi was failure after failure, either the car or driver error or something went wrong. You feel for the guys who put in all of that time and effort when you don’t get a reward for it, so to win, I was just pleased for everyone involved.”

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Number 1! Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The win came after securing pole position, which came as a surprise also. Flick said that she was “sat in her room, telling herself not to lose her head”.

Going into the first round of the season, Flick and her team-mate Jonny Adam had limited testing and so had no idea where their pace would be compared to the rest of the field. “We didn’t do media day and we haven’t done tests with any of the other competitors,” says Flick. “Therefore, we didn’t really know where we were in the field going into the first weekend.”

“It was a shock as, although I thought that we would be competitive, I didn’t think that we would come out with the result that we did. It wasn’t expected – we just prepared as much as we could have done. To have turned up and be where we were – amazing.”

Flick has had successful campaigns in a number of championships, including long endurance races like the Dubai 24 Hours and Mugello 12 Hours but she insists that British GT is more demanding for different reasons.

The series takes place at race tracks across the UK and heads across to the world-famous Spa-Francorchamps in August before returning for the closing rounds.

“I did two years previously in an Audi, but I had actually struggled in that car,” Flick tells us. “I could never really get the results that we should have done. The team struggled with the set up and it wasn’t great in the wet. We just had lots of issues so from that experience, I was thinking that it could be a two year thing to get to know the car and to get everything to where we want it to be.”

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Credit: Flick Haigh

After the win, Flick even had to seek advice from her team-mate Jonny Adam on how to use social media: “I had to text Jonny on Tuesday – he’d asked me to tag all of these people in a photo but I didn’t know how to do it! I’ve only ever retweeted things so it’s been interesting to see that social media comes with the package of racing.”

When thinking ahead to the next rounds, Flick knows that it’s important to take each race as it comes. She was eager to describe the challenges of British GT, having only driven her current championship car a handful of times before their first win. As if that wasn’t already demanding enough, Flick pointed out that there is a huge difference between the type of mental strength needed for long endurance racing, and for the shorter races that she’s competed in, like British GT.

“The hardest thing is to maintain your focus in a British GT race,” she says. “In a 24 hour race, you can kind of just sit there putting 80 percent in because you’re sitting comfortably and it’s just about maintaining that and that’s fine. The hardest thing in British GT will be to keep putting in excellent lap times while the tyres are going off and not losing positions because of that. Jonny said that at Rockingham it’ll all be about managing tyres and he is completely right,” she adds.

With that in mind, Flick is going to the Rockingham rounds next weekend with an open mind, yet still with one eye on the prize.

“At Rockingham we will start with a clean slate and we’ll just put the same effort in: all the prep work and simulator work that Johnny and I have done, the gym, training…we’ll just do everything the same and hopefully we’ll get more success,” says Flick. “It’s not an easy championship to walk into and just get pole position and win every weekend. You have to focus entirely.”

“I’m putting in some extra simulator sessions with Jonny as I haven’t raced in the UK for four years and don’t really know Rockingham as well. I’m having to remind myself of all the braking points as I haven’t done many at all in a GT3 car. Rockingham is renowned for tyre degradation, so managing tyres over the two hour race will be vital. We’ve had a test day where we did long runs so I could get used to the car and how it felt at the end of the stint, as it feels very different.”
As mentioned, Flick’s recent success makes her the only woman to have ever won a GT3 class race. Jamie Chadwick is the only other female to have won in the series, although she was competing in a GT4 car.  

Flick’s success meant that she and Jonny crossed the line first overall. But, does being the only woman in the series, let alone a clear minority in the paddock, impact Flick? No, she says. As far as she is concerned she is “just the same”.

“Even when I started 11 years ago, I’ve always felt like just a driver – not a woman or whatever,” says Flick. “When you put the helmet on, there is no difference. It’s not strength related; it isn’t a contact sport. Motorsport is all mental.” 

“If you have the right mentality when you get in the car, that’s what wins you races. It’s nothing to do with gender; it’s all to do with mindset. I’ve never been treated any differently and I’ve never had anyone say anything derogatory. I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve always felt accepted.”

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Flick racing her Caterham Credit: Flick Haigh

Flick does however wish that she had found racing at a younger age. The Caterham. Champion longs to have jumped in a go-kart at the age of six or seven, like most racing drivers do. But, we feel that the limited racing experience just makes Flick’s talent even more special.

“Just go for it if you want to race,” says Flick. “If anyone is in doubt about whether they should go for it or not, just do it. I wish that I had started karting a six years old. I wasn’t aware of it and my family weren’t into motorsport.

“It just shows you that you can start whenever. There is no time limit and there’s no restrictions. You should just go and do what you want to do – go to circuits and meet teams and speak to people. There’s so many different avenues to get into it. Caterham is a great place to start.”

Why we adore motorsport and what it means to us

Motorsport is adored by millions, that’s a given. But, just why do we love it? Well, to do something a little different, Females in Motorsport asked the Twitter community to write a couple of paragraphs on why the sport means so much to them. The results are pretty uplifting to read!

Josie

I’ve loved motorsports since I the age of six, when I was able to understand the sheer brilliance of Michael Schumacher – him as a driver and his determination to win.

My first racing memory was asking my dad why he liked it because ‘the red man always wins’ but the German/Italian national anthems and seeing the passion from Ferrari after a win made me carry on watching (even if I did fall asleep sometimes).

Race weekends became ‘daddy/daughter time’. Racing brought me closer to my dad as it was a passion we both shared even if we ended up supporting different teams/drivers and I didn’t follow the aerodynamics career pathway into F1 he was hoping I’d take (sorry dad).

Racing hasn’t just brought me closer to my family but it’s also introduced me to many new friends and new opportunities. The confidence I’ve gained from meeting likeminded people, such as the Dare To Be Different community, has allowed me to start blogging about both MotoGP and F1 and to consider pursuing my dream career as a reporter in the motorsports world.

At six years old, I never thought racing would mean so much to me or would give so much back to me.

Marlon

I remember and, have being told that when I was a little girl, I was always watching races together with my father. When I got older I got more and more interested in the sport and started to learn more myself.

First it was mostly Formula 1 and DTM, as my father used to go to the DTM races in Zandvoort every year. In 2012 he took me with him, and it was amazing! This was my first live race.

I started watching junior series as well, which I really like. It’s s different to Formula 1. One thing I really like about it, is to follow the younger drivers and see them grow over the years.

I love the tension you get before the lights go out on Sunday. I still get goosebumps every time. This sport is so much more than just fast cars. It’s everything around it. It means the world to me.

Also, because I am sick, this is the one thing I can still do. It is a relief and joy for me. My goal now is to be working in this world, and I am determined to reach that.

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Oprah 

Motorsport is my life. And when I say it’s my life, that means something I can not live without. It’s a passion, It is a deep-rooted engagement between fans, teams, and drivers.

What made me love Motorsport has so many reasons. It motivates me to excel and makes me so special as an Arabian girl. I love It because it brings people from around the world to watch it together no matter of their backgrounds and beliefs. It puts me in a thrill and spellbinds my soul.

On the other hand, the sound of the engines is a heavenly sound to my ears. 2010, was my first ever circuit to attend was the Malaysian Sepang International Circuit I still remember the goosebumps all around my body and the joyful tears when I heard the engine sounds roaring from the parking area Today, as a motorsport editor under the wing of Motorlat, I met and interviewed a number of champions from Formula One, World Rally, Rallycross, IndyCar, and NASCAR at the ROC event, where they compete against each other.

Motorsport is my beautiful culture.

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Maddie

To discover what motorsport means to me we need to rewind about eight years.

I used to be a very sporty person but then I was diagnosed with acute plantar fasciitis. Long story short it messed me up for about a year and I was taken off every sport team.

Six months later I was in car crash, I had severe whiplash which would result in almost fortnightly hospital trips for three years.

It was towards the end of those three years that I discovered Formula 1.

It may sound silly to some but I truly believe that F1 and my passion that came from it played a big part in pulling me out of a dark pace.

In fact, without that passion I wouldn’t be where I am now.

I love motorsport because it has opened up a world to me that I never thought I’d be in. I love the excitement, the strategy and how it can evolve with the times.

Thanks to motorsport I have met some truly incredible and inspiring people, from a double amputee racing driver to the first female to drive in an F1 weekend for 22 years.

As I finish my final year of my Sports Journalism degree I cannot wait to see where it takes me next.

Helen

Some people think that F1 is boring, but not me. Sure the racing may be a bit dull sometimes, but behind the scenes there is still so much going on!

I love F1 because of the teamwork that goes into it. In some cases more than 1,000 people in a team with one goal of winning the Constructor’s World Championship and maybe along the way a Driver’s Championship as well.

When you look behind the racing, at the science, that’s when things really grip hold of me. The cutting edge technology and materials they use and what the engineers can do with them is mind blowing! And the fact that these complex pieces of machinery function, for the most part perfectly, really is just amazing.

Then there are the drivers and their ability to push these machines. I recall an interview with Eddie Irvine who was talking about how Michael Schumacher could leave the pits at Spa and drive through Eau Rouge flat out on a full tank of fuel. Eddie admitted that this is something he could not do. Some drivers have this ability to push harder than others and that’s why they are the World Champions.

Lastly an F1 weekend is not just about the on track action, but also what is going on off the track as well and I love this glamour and intrigue almost as much as what’s happening on the track.

Rosanna Tennant: “Working in F1 doesn’t feel like a job”

Meet Rosanna Tennant, someone who knows what it’s like to work your way towards the top of the motorsport media career ladder from the very bottom! After a successful spell with the YouTube channel Pole Position, her role as a presenter quickly developed. Now, as a presenter and host for Formula 1 and Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, she is becoming an increasingly familiar face.

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Rosanna presenting with Johnny Herbert, accompanied by Nico Rosberg. Credit: LAT Images

Rosanna works for a sports marketing agency based in London called Influence Sports & Media, and it is through them that she works with the Mercedes F1 team.

“My role involves working with the Team to come up with ideas in and around what they do at the factory and races,” she says. “That then crosses over to filming with the Drivers and the Team’s Technical Partners, as well as Senior Management and Team members from different departments. Sometimes I present those pieces and sometimes I take more of a producer role. Then when they want a live event hosted, I’ll host that as well.”

Therefore, Rosanna understands working with brands and what they tend to look for when it comes to generating content.

“It’s making fun and engaging content, but never overstepping the mark, especially when you are working with global brands with rigorous brand guidelines. It’s all about attention to detail; things must always be well thought through.”

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Credit: LAT Images

In addition, Rosanna also works for F1 in Schools and 4×4 in Schools, hosting events for them. Perhaps, though, she is best known for working directly for Formula 1, helping them with the content they produce.

“I present their social media and digital clips, and am also part of the team that creates content in the Fan Village over race weekends,” she says. “I’ll host things like the Formula 1 Fan Forum either on my own or with a co-host such as Johnny Herbert. It’s brilliant being able to engage with the fans and the Drivers – the Drivers are always in such good spirits because the fans are there. I also do interviews in the Formula 1 Paddock over the course of the weekend.”

These events are non-stop and require you to think on your feet, especially when hosting on stage for hours at a time without a script! All this is a good learning experience, according to Rosanna.

“It’s definitely been a great learning experience,” she says. “It’s made me better at live presenting, as you just have to go with it. The adrenaline is always quite high as you never know what might be coming next. Sometimes there’s a delay and you just have to fill a gap for ten minutes chatting to the camera or the audience!”

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Rosanna with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton

Unsurprisingly, this all equates to one busy schedule, but Rosanna sees that as a positive thing.

“With Formula 1 you work weekends so you’re away from home a lot, but I’ve always wanted to do this kind of thing so I appreciate every single moment. For me, being busy is great and I’m lucky to be able to say I absolutely love my job. I never feel like I’m dragging my feet to go to the office. The moment I feel like that I need to change career path!”

One of Rosanna’s iconic moments came when she interviewed Lewis Hamilton as he took her for a hot lap around Sepang International Circuit. The video was circulated all over social media and has had well over six million views.

“We did an interview, if you can call it that!” Rosanna explains. “It’s great to have the insight of what goes on within the Team. I’ve learned lots and it’s helped me develop a strong working relationship with Lewis, Valtteri and Toto.”

In 2016 Rosanna hosted Mercedes’ Paddock hospitality at Formula 1 races, which kept her in the sport’s environment on a regular basis.

“I was interviewing the Team’s drivers on almost every race weekend,” she said. “It helped me stay close to the sport and the people within the sport. That obviously helps you keep abreast of new opportunities, you don’t necessarily hear about them first, but you do hear about them.”

Despite Rosanna working for one of the most influential names in sport, there are still restrictions with the content that can be published. With this, an eye for creativity is formed, which is why Rosanna is so successful at what she does.

“When creating YouTube content related to F1 you really have to think outside of the box as you don’t have access to much footage due to copyright laws,” she says. “At Pole Position, we were very limited with what we could show but we soon became pretty savvy making creative videos without track footage.”

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Despite the challenges faced at Pole Position, Rosanna feels she learnt the tricks of the trade during her early days there.

“I was 25 when I started hosting Pole Position,” she said. “I knew nothing about motor sport and had to really summon up my self-confidence in the beginning. It was a steep learning curve. Some of the YouTube content at the time was quite aggressive and I made the decision not to follow that trend. For some YouTubers that works for their brand but that style wasn’t and still isn’t right for me. I never knew where Pole Position would take me; you never want to look back and think ‘I wish I hadn’t said that!’”

One to watch: Emily Linscott

At Females in Motorsport we love discovering young girls that are taking their first steps in motorsport. So, when a young lady called Emily Linscott starting following us on Twitter, we quickly realised how much of a star she already was.

Meet Miss Linscott. She’s 15 and already formidably fast, not to mention a multi-award winning racer. Although she only started karting in 2016, by August last year she was making her racing car debut at Rockingham. You can see why she’s had lots of people excited!

“I only starting liking motorsport once I’d started karting,” she told us. “My parents would watch MotoGP and sometimes an F1 race, but then a man called Dan Lee of Race Driver Developments came along and said if I wanted to go further in motorsport, not to go to SuperOne karts but to go straight into cars.

“We went to Snetterton in 2016 to watch and I loved them, from then on I’ve wanted to race them, and I’ve been planning my career ever since.”

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Credit: Jakcob Ebrey

But how did this new-found love of speed begin? A day out at a karting track in Essex was in fact what kickstarted Emily’s passion.

“My dad took me to Lakeside Karting one Sunday with a school friend and I enjoyed it,” she said. “I joined a development club after that and after just two weeks they said I should move up to their karting race academy. I did very well there and once again, Dan Lee (Brentwood Karting) said I should go open wheel to better my skills. Things seemed to be working out pretty good!”

Since that first adventure, Emily has been snapped up by Arden (their founder none other can Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner) and their Young Racing Driver’s Academy, something she is incredibly proud to be a part of.

“I was totally shocked and surprised to learn they’d scouted me and asked me to join the
YRDA after such a short space of time,” Emily said. “We were asked to the Arden HQ to see their factory. When we got there, it was amazing. There’s three formula cars in their reception, one of them being a Red Bull F1 car! It’s so cool to see them up close, I’d never even seen one in the flesh before. They’re huge!

“Then both Jamie Horner and Steve Hutchinson came out to meet us. They shook our hands and then just spoke directly to me about what I’d done and how I felt about winning my first championship in my first year and things like that. They seemed to know a lot about me. We then got a tour of the building and the cars in the workshop, which was really cool. They then showed me where the drivers practice on their F4 simulators and offered me a go.”

Naturally, Emily was apprehensive but took this in her stride and the nerves played to her advantage.

“I was a bit nervous, as I’d never seen one before, I’d never even driven a computer racing game, so it was all a bit strange,” she said. “I got some awesome coaching and then they left me alone to try what I’d learnt, which went pretty well too. At the end of the session we talked about how fast I’d picked it up the that my lap times showed good speed and handling of the car…then they offered me a position in the YRDA as one of only 15 drivers worldwide!

“I’m just starting my second year with them and the training, the simulator work and the
mental approach is really starting to show through. I’ll be testing in an F4 car a few times this year during the season, so we’ll see where that takes me.”

Despite having achieved an awful lot in such a short space of time, Emily is keeping her options for the future open. She said: “Initially I was aiming for GT or LMP in the WEC, but I’ll wait and see what the F4 tests show. I’m expecting them to be incredible, so who knows, I may go down the Formula route after the Ginetta’s…”

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Emily at Brands Hatch with her Mum Samantha. Credit: Lee Fraser/Mat Acton

It was clear to see Emily’s passion from talking to her. Racing is now a bit part of her life and one of her biggest sources of enjoyment.

“It’s the excitement and thrill of pitting myself against others at speed, the added element of danger and the atmosphere of the paddocks,” she said. “Most of the drivers treat each other with a huge amount of respect off the track, even to the point of making good friends with them too, but when you get out on track, the friendship ends for that period of time and you’re all totally focused on the racing, not the people.”

Emily has already shown maturity in the racing decisions she’s already made. On top of this, she knows that being a girl in the industry still makes you a minority. Yet, she is keen to show that girls can dare to be different too and rightly doesn’t let her gender hold her back.

“If you want to do it, then just get out there and do it!” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t; you can. If I can do it, then anyone can. I was extremely shy but loved the idea of going fast.

“That’s it really, you have to show others just how much it means to you, in whatever way you can. It doesn’t mean you have to say it, you just have to work hard to prove it means something. It’s crazy expensive and my family aren’t what you’d call rolling in it, so my parents won’t just waste money on a whim, I’ve had to prove it really means something.”

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Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Why Emily is one to watch:

  • Emily won the BMKC Junior Championship in November 2016 having competed in just 6 of the seven rounds, finishing on the podium in every race.
  • Awarded the Buckmore Park Star Pupil 2016 – the first female to win the title in its 16-year history.
  • The Jack Petchey Foundation proudly awarded Emily for ‘Inspiration to young adults’ through her work and commitment to karting.
  • Highly Commended for Karting Magazine’s ‘Rookie of the Year 2016’ award.
  • Competed in her first Ginetta Junior Car Race in August 2017.
  • Finished 5th place rookie at Silverstone in the Ginetta Junior Championship Race September 2017.
  • Highly Commended for Active Essex ‘Young Sports Personality of the Year 2017’ Award from tens of thousands of young athletes.
  • Named as one of the ten finalists of the Downforce UK ‘Henry Surtees Teen Racer of the Year 2017 – awaiting the result any day now.
  • Recognised by ExquisiteConceirge.co.uk who have tipped her as an Essex Sports Start To Watch in 2018 .

 

Pippa Mann: “It’s still a boy’s playground”

Pippa Mann knows first hand what it’s like to be an IndyLights race winner, Indy Car  competitor and, in addition, one of the most successful female racing drivers ever. But, just how does this correlate to create a strong female who is an inspiration to us all? Thick skin is just the beginning of it all…

“For a female of any age coming into motorsport, you do have to understand that you are walking into what still is in general a boy’s playground,” the IndyLights race winner told us. “You have to be able to ignore a certain level of noise and be prepared to work harder to get the same level of recognition.

“There will always be people trying to tear you down, but there will be people out there who want to help you succeed, and who want to help you get there, those are the people you want to pay attention to, and align with. But, for the rest of it, you’ll have to grow pretty thick skin.”

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Credit: Jame Price for Prestige Performance 

Pippa is right to dish out the advice, having experienced paddock life first-hand for a number of years. From karting, Pippa has worked her way up through the ranks and is now a well-established racing driver.

“It’s interesting,” she began, “while my second year in IndyLights in 2010 was obviously a good year, and it did launch me into my first Indy 500 the following season based on my results on the ovals, it was still just a ‘good’ year by another driver in IndyLights.

“Here in the US we’re more accustomed to female athletes having success on the race track, so a girl winning a race, being on the podium, finishing in the top 5 of a championship is not necessarily viewed as a ground-breaking achievement. And perhaps it shouldn’t be? If my name was Phil Mann, we would simply say I had a pretty good year, and leave it at that. That’s a description I’m comfortable with.”

From that, it must be recognised that Pippa has been more than just a racer.

“While I’m proud to be a female athlete, I view my achievements as a racer who hasn’t been full time in a racing car in a long time, and who does the best with the opportunities that come up.

“I have engineers and so on that actively want to work with me when I put opportunities together – that tells me I’m doing something right.”

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Credit: Pippa Mann

But where has this motivation come from? In a competitive world, nothing is ever easy and Pippa knows that all too well. But, as she explained, the determination is in her blood.

“The drive to succeed comes from my mother,” she told Females in Motorsport. “She’s a strong business woman, and I’ve definitely inherited her no-nonsense, get things done attitude and determination. Beyond that, it comes from deep inside me personally. I always want to do better, to run better, to put up a better result.”

Yet, like everyone, Pippa is not a stranger to those days where things can seem impossible. When talking to us, she explained that there’s still a difference between a woman having a bad day, and a man having a bad day. She said: “As a male racer when you have a bad day, you’re just another racer having a rough day. As a female racer when you have a rough day, suddenly a million morons think you represent every single racer of your gender who is currently racing, who has raced, and who will race after you.

In addition, these bad days can turn into bad periods where you begin to doubt much more than just your racing ability.

“Sometimes there are entire bad years,” she said. “There have been occasions in my career where I’ve wondered whether I will be able to keep racing – either whether I’ll be able to find the money to keep going, or when I’ve just rock bottom confidence so I wonder whether it’s worth keeping going.”

Pippa even acknowledged that the off-days have become harder to deal with due to the ever growing popularity of social media where people have the ability to watch your every move.

“Everyone with an opinion now has the ability to reach you, interact with you, and share their opinions with you directly, or simply about you, to as many people as they possibly can. As a female racer, there’s a level of this that someone like me attracts beyond what most male drivers of the same standing get,” she explained. “It’s a tough sport. Having an innate ability to grip your teeth, pick yourself up and stand tall for another round is key to being able to continue to compete, let alone succeed.”

As this is Youth in Motorsport month on our website, it was only right to ask Pippa about the three projects she is currently involved in to help young females get involved in motorsport. Pippa told us that she is the founding member of Team Empower TopKart USA team, which aims to help support female racers under their awning at major kart races in the US.

“The idea is to foster an environment from an earlier age where it’s women encouraging women and we’re helping to lift each other up. We’ve had a couple of racers who were part of that in 2017, and we’re hoping to do more of that in 2018.”

Pippa is also a member of the grant committee on the Lyn St James Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium fun: “Lyn was the second female racer to qualify for the Indy 500, and she has been committed to helping other female racers follow in her footsteps,” she said. “Her foundation awards grands each fall to female racer in the US who are showing outstanding talent, and she tries to mentor some of the top recipients personally.”

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Credit: Lucas Oil School of Racing

Finally, since the Autumn she has been involved with the Lucas Oil School of Racing. They set up a Scholarship Pippa’s name for young female racers who want to make the first step from karting to cars.

“I already work there as an instructor,” she said. “The idea is that when we’re running a two-day basic school for people who have never driven an open wheel car before, we try to keep one spot open for a scholarship student.

“These racers are selected by sending us their racing resumes and a cover letter. The panel and I go through them, and we pick racers who we think could use a reg up on the ladder.”

This is perhaps the closest to Pippa’s heart, with it being so personal to her. Since its founding, it has already helped several racers.

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Credit: Pippa Mann

“We have our second recipient coming through later this month, and then two more racers in February, and one more in March,” she said. “We’ll be reviewing the applications again as we head into the summer, and then into the fall as this year’s karting season starts to wind down, looking for the next batch of racers we can help.

“This is designed to help those younger racers understand that as women n this sport, we need to be helping and uplifting one another. We can all play a part in that. The ultimate goal is to help form relationships for these racers so that I can become a resource for them as they move up the ladder.”